Newly Discovered Harper Lee Novel to be Published This Summer

Posted on February 3, 2015

President Bush awards Harper Lee the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Harper Lee wrote a sequel to her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, but the manuscript has been lost since the 1950s. It has now been found and will be published this summer by HarperCollins.

The novel is called Go Set a Watchman and it will be released on July 14th, 2015 by the HarperCollins imprint Harper. Harper Lee issued a statement explaining that she wrote the book in the mid-1950s. She explains, "It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told."

Ms. Lee thought the manuscript had been lost. Apparently there was only copy of it and it had gotten stuck to a typed original manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird. Ms. Lee's attorney Tonja Carter found the manuscript, which had been stored in a safe location. The attorney handed it over to Ms. Lee, who was quite surprised that it turned up.

Ms. Lee said, "[I] was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years."

The novel is set during the mid-1950. Many of the original characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are in the novel which looks at the characters' live twenty years later than the first book. The character Scout (Jean Louise Finch) returns to the small town of Maycomb after living in New York. Scout visits her father, Atticus Finch. Scout reconnects with her father while facing both political and personal challenges. She also examines her own feelings towards the town she grew up in, with its racial inequalities and tension .

Needless to say, HarperCollins is beyond thrilled. Jonathan Burnham, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Harper had this to say about the amazing literary discovery: "This is a remarkable literary event.... Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee's classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter's relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s."

On November 5, 2007, Ms. Lee was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. President Bush said, "To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced the character of our country for the better. It's been a gift to the entire world. As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book will be read and studied forever."

The discovery of this manuscript is a true gift for scholars and fans of Ms. Lee's work. The fact that it was written in the 1950s makes it even more compelling. The novel functions as a sequel as it moves the story forward and examines the consequences of the characters' actions in To Kill a Mockingbird. It is now the most highly anticipated book release of the year.

Photo: White House photo by Eric Draper